He was for it before he was against it. Then he was against it when he should have been for it.
Metro Councilman Buddy Baker, who represents The Nations neighborhood, finally signed onto a resolution approving a “waste transfer facility” — a recycling plant — to be located near the old Ford Glass Plant on Centennial Boulevard.
Then Mary Carolyn Roberts, Baker’s opponent in the upcoming election, said it was “another backdoor deal” by the incumbent. Perhaps feeling the heat, Baker decided not to back the plant, emphasizing that just because he signed onto the resolution didn’t mean he supported it.
Unfortunately for Baker, the council’s attorney said he couldn’t simply withdraw the resolution, because it would become law after 60 days without council action.
This doesn’t make much sense: A permit could be approved if it’s either A) approved or B) not acted on? Thus are the byzantine ways of zoning and usage laws.
Baker was in a quandary, and the only way to deny the permit was for the council to take a vote. So at the July 19 council meeting, Baker made a motion to disapprove — basically urging the council to vote yes to make something not happen that Baker had originally asked to happen, because if they didn’t vote that way, it would happen anyway.
Robert’s Rules of Order, that stodgy old volume used throughout the English-speaking world to run every kind of meeting from a quaint country bridge club to the gold-filigreed board of directors at a Fortune 500 company, is not keen on motions in the negative.
“It is preferable to avoid a motion containing a negative statement even in cases where it would have a meaning, since members may become confused as to the effect of voting for or against such a motion,” the Rules read.
Exactly. The correct procedural play would have been to move for approval and then urge a no vote. After all, what would have happened if the motion to disapprove failed? Would the permit have been granted? Would this have counted as “council action”?
While pondering that existential dilemma, there’s a more important question: If not on Centennial Boulevard — already a well-developed industrial area — where?
Waste Services of Tennessee clearly sees a need for the plant, but no one seems to want it around. Unfortunately for Baker, Robert’s Rules are silent on solutions for NIMBYism — and for avoiding campaign missteps.